Image via Geoff Rushton/StateCollege.com
Over the past decade, schools have realized the value of investing in facilities as a means to attract the best players. Early-release mock-ups and photographs of locker rooms, conditioning facilities, and spa-like trainers’ rooms create a buzz that impacts recruiting and, hopefully, performance on the playing field. At this point, there is a degree of saturation and expectation surrounding the amenities at many universities. One place, however, that has recently started receiving badly-needed attention is the student-athlete-focused academic center.
The growing trend of creating comfortable and efficient study spaces for student-athletes has a few commonalities at its core. First off, as seen at Penn State, which recently became the latest in a line of schools to unveil an improved academic center for its student-athletes, schools seek to consolidate disparate locations into a single one-stop educational shop. Integrating what was previously four academic locations for student-athletes into a single building makes academic tracking, support, and tutoring for student-athletes easier than before. Says PSU AD Sandy Barbour, who contributed $100,000 to the $7.2 million renovation, “This is a physical statement about our commitment to academics. Having this project be first speaks to the priority and commitment to the academic and the student welfare and development side of our student-athlete experience here at Penn State.”
Another facet of the new wave of student-athlete academic centers is access to resources that work with the students’ unusual schedules. At LSU’s Cox Communications Academic Center for Student-Athletes, players can arrange for tutoring at any time during the Center’s hours, which range from 7:30am-10pm. Unlike most college students who have swaths of time between classes, the demands of practices, travel, and competitions make finding time for one-on-one assistance a difficult task. Having a dedicated location with a staff that can assist during early mornings or late nights gives student-athletes the opportunities to find the help to which they otherwise might not have had access.
This movement towards improving academic resources for athletes is becoming more common across the country, with other major DI athletic powers are doing similar things as PSU and LSU. In an article from the New York Times, details about USC and UGA’s academic centers are outlined. Furthermore, the costs of these facilities are nothing to shrug about, either. Spending $15 million and $41.7 million respectively, LSU and Oregon’s centers are meant to not just cater to the needs of student-athletes, but to be a comfortable place where they would want to spend time. After all, if the students hate the environment where they study, they’re probably not going to be inclined to go there.
|Noteworthy D1 Academic Center Investments|
|University of Southern California||$70 million*||2012|
|University of Georgia||$7 million||2002|
|Penn State University||$7.2 million||2016|
|Louisiana State University||$15 million||2002|
|University of Oregon||$41.7 million||2010|
|*Stevens Academic Center part of John McKay Center which cost $70 million and houses Trojan athletic facilities|
Typically composed of a combination of academic services, having a single location to receive help in the form of counseling, tutoring, schedule assistance, and technology centers that operate around student-athletes’ schedules can help take some of the guesswork out of where to go for academic services. And with the constraints on both the energy and time of today’s student-athletes, knowing where and with whom to speak could be the difference between success and failure.
Despite the constant dialogue surrounding the allocation of precious resources at the university level, the funding of academic support for student-athletes should be free from criticism. As long as student-athletes are required to sacrifice hundreds of hours a year to earn a scholarship to college, that school has an obligation to ensure that scholarship has true academic merit, and committing to the educational physical plant, as many schools are doing, is a trend worth supporting.
Francis Giknis joins College AD as a contributor after seven years of teaching and coaching throughout the east coast. Prior to writing for College AD, Francis earned an English degree from the College of William and Mary and his masters at Columbia University. Raised in a cable television-free household, he remembers binge-watching ESPN while on vacations away from home, much to the chagrin of his parents.